Deirdre LaBassiere Final Review

Immediate past Chair, Deirdre LaBassiere FTLS, presents her final review of her two years in office as Chair of The Lunar Society. (This presentation was made at the AGM of The Lunar Society in July 2021. You can read the full Annual Review HERE)

2020/21 was not a year that any of us would wish to live through again, but with careful planning and much effort we have maintained and fulfilled our Objectives during the course of the year with a busy series of meetings and discussions, helpfully facilitated through the medium of Zoom webinars.  With the pandemic impacting so significantly on society and indeed on many of our members and supporters, the Executive Committee supported the proposal for all our on-line events to be free to access – thereby performing a valuable social role in maintaining contact and achieving dialogue and discussion. We are particularly grateful to the membership for their support during this most challenging of periods and for their continued loyalty which is greatly appreciated.

Despite the pandemic therefore, we continued to hold robust and engaging presentations, discussions and debates on a variety of pertinent topics including those with long-term implications such as the environment and meeting climate goals (through our Boulton and Watt series of lectures) and shorter-term issues relating to the immediate impact of the pandemic.

Our events attracted a wider audience than previously and significantly, we engaged with both younger people and also those overseas – all aided by the virtual format.  Those without internet access also joined us by traditional phone – a feature of the Zoom platform that enabled wider reach. Our events and discussions have been diverse.

We commemorated Black History Month and provided a forum to examine and debate current issues and to help develop a wider understanding of Black history, including the roles of the original Lunar men.  Our Black In…Series covered four areas – Health, Politics, Law, and Innovation – celebrated Black contributions to British society including those by the eminent panellists. 

Our Sir Adrian Cadbury Lecture presented the outcome of the Governance Inquiry and launched Karl George MBE’s Race Equality Code 2020 which has been successfully adopted by organisations across the UK including Birmingham City Council and is also embedded in the National Housing Federation’s new Code of Governance 2020 for Housing Associations in England & Wales.  We thank the Rt. Hon. Liam Byrne for delivering the principal address and we are grateful to Aston University and the George Cadbury Fund for supporting the Lecture, now in its fourth year.

Homelessness is not just for Christmas… was a timely consideration of issues that face the homeless and the charities and organisations that support them. 

In an event titled How can we enable children from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve their full potential? we turned our attention to our children, their education and those disadvantaged amongst them, particularly in light of the gross inequalities highlighted as a result of the COVID19 pandemic. 

Ageing Well In Birmingham highlighted the issue that despite Birmingham being one of the youngest cities in Europe, the increasing older population has major health and social care needs, exacerbated by the COVID19 pandemic.  We also explored the accelerated implementation and collaboration of new cross-sector partnership working.

In a historic first, we also hosted a speaker live from the United States of America addressing the Lunar Society members in the UK in an exclusive talk by eminent historian and author Anton Chaitkin FTLS. Franklin, Lunar and America’s fight for universal progress included evidence to make the case that Benjamin Franklin, the American scientist and statesman, inspired and was inspired by the Eighteenth-Century Lunar Society.

Lunar Society Fellow and Executive Committee Member, David Dundas also spoke as part of the Boulton and Watt series of Lectures looking at the role of Nuclear energy in a fossil fuel free environment and examined the two types of nuclear power.

Sadly, in October 2020, The Lunar Society lost one of our leading lights in Dame Rachel Waterhouse DBE, the first Chair of the newly constituted Lunar Society, who was a great consumer champion, proponent of women’s rights and the first recipient of the Lunar Medal in 2006.  We took the opportunity to honour her memory at an engaging and lively discussion, Choose to Challenge – Women in the frontline.

Looking to the future, the pandemic has sharpened the need for an apolitical, community-wide forum capable of discussing and developing ideas to enable society to respond to a post-COVID-19 world.  In consequence, we are planning more in-person activities including our annual Boulton and Watt Lecture, The Annual Sir Adrian Cadbury Lecture and the Annual Dinner. The modern-day Lunar Society will mark its 30th Anniversary in 2022 (financial year end March 2023) providing a landmark opportunity to focus attention on its work, activities and    achievements.  This is very much aligned to the fact that no other membership organisation in the Midlands has such a broad representation within its membership not linked to any affiliation or cause, making us a unique and diverse melting pot that truly engages in diversity of thought at all levels. 

All these initiatives have been spearheaded by our inspiring Executive Committee, and by many of     you – Society Fellows, Associates and Corporate Members – with the support of our secretariat   Clarke Associates. I must, of course, thank all our dynamic speakers, participants, sponsors and members, without whom we would not have achieved our success.

We have all acted with one belief – which is to further the aims of the original Lunar men and to build upon the great work of the founders of the reconstituted Lunar Society to ensure that in this 21st century we are creating our own legacy for a space for stimulating ideas, broadening debate and catalysing action in a meaningful way for society. I look forward to the Lunar Society’s continued success.

Deirdre LaBassiere LL.B(Hons) FTLS

July 2021

Lunar Society Chair Deirdre LaBassiere FTLS LL.B(Hons) (pictured) was amongst the speakers at the launch of the Potteries Lunar Society.